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Six Games To Watch

November 14, 2003|Robyn Norwood

No. 11 PURDUE (8-2)

at No. 4 OHIO STATE (9-1)

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN GamePlan

Line: Ohio State by 3.

Purdue update: The Boilermakers are tied for first in the Big Ten with Ohio State and Michigan after defeating Iowa, 27-14. Purdue concludes its regular season next week at Indiana.

Ohio State update: The Buckeyes knocked Michigan State into the two-loss category in the conference race with a 33-23 victory. Ohio State is No. 3 in the bowl championship series standings, but a showdown with Michigan in Ann Arbor in the final game awaits.

Story line: This is a key game in the Big Ten race -- and an Ohio State loss would make Trojan fans breathe easier -- but Ohio State-Michigan still looms as the biggest.

The pick: Ohio State. But next week, Michigan is the pick.

*

TEXAS TECH (7-3)

at No. 6 TEXAS (8-2)

Kickoff: 4 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports Net

Line: Texas by 16.

Texas update: Since a 65-13 loss to Oklahoma, Texas has recovered, most recently with a 55-16 victory over then-No. 21 Oklahoma State. But fair warning: Texas Tech upset the Longhorns, 42-28, last season.

Texas Tech update: With quarterback B.J. Symons running the show, the Red Raiders have four 50-point games and lead the nation in total offense at 612.9 yards a game as well as in passing offense, at 508.7. Symons threw a career-high seven touchdown passes last week against Baylor.

Story line: The Longhorns, seemingly perennial disappointments, could be on their way to a BCS bowl.

The pick: Texas. The Longhorn defense gives up only 19.7 points a game.

*

AUBURN (6-4)

at No. 7 GEORGIA (7-2)

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m.

TV: Channel 2.

Line: Georgia by 7.

Auburn update: The Tigers won five in a row after an 0-2 start but have lost two of their last three, to Louisiana State and Mississippi.

Georgia update: Georgia, Tennessee and Florida could be headed for a tie for the Southeastern Conference East title at 6-2, with the BCS standings to play a crucial role in the tiebreaker. This week, Tennessee is No. 7, Georgia is No. 9 and Florida is No. 14 in the BCS standings.

Story line: The inconsistent Bulldogs better buckle down if they want to advance to the SEC title game.

The pick: Georgia. But it's worth noting home-field advantage hasn't meant much in the series, with Auburn winning nine of the last 10 games played in Athens.

*

No. 2 USC (8-1)

at ARIZONA (2-8)

Kickoff: 4 p.m.

TV: TBS

Line: USC by 28.

USC update: The Trojans, with a No. 2 ranking in the BCS standings, have visions of the Sugar Bowl in their heads and a favorable schedule with Arizona, UCLA and Oregon State remaining.

Arizona update: The Wildcats are coming off a 27-22 victory over Washington, and Mike Bell has averaged more than 172 yards rushing in the last three games. Still, Arizona ranks 103rd in the nation in scoring offense and 106th in scoring defense.

Story line: The Trojans are about as close to a lock against Arizona as a team can get, but every step is worth watching now with a possible berth in the Sugar Bowl on the line.

The pick: USC. Hardly anyone will be watching in the fourth quarter.

*

No. 3 LOUISIANA STATE (8-1)

at ALABAMA (4-6)

Kickoff: 4:45 p.m.

TV: ESPN

Line: LSU by 6 1/2.

LSU update: The Tigers, whose only loss is to Florida, are No. 3 in the polls and No. 4 in the BCS standings. LSU's strength is its defense, and the Tigers lead the nation in scoring defense at 9.56 points a game.

Alabama update: LSU Coach Nick Saban calls the Crimson Tide the best 4-6 team in the country, which is an odd bit of praise. Two of Alabama's losses were in overtime to Arkansas and Tennessee, and a 20-13 loss to Oklahoma looks decent in retrospect.

Story line: LSU tries to hold onto its BCS position and hope for losses by teams above such as No. 2 USC or No. 3 Ohio State.

The pick: LSU. Consider it a vote for defense.

*

No. 16 PITTSBURGH (7-2)

at WEST VIRGINIA (5-4)

Kickoff: 4 p.m.

TV: ESPN2

Line: Pick.

Pittsburgh update: Pitt, not Miami or Virginia Tech, leads the Big East at 4-0. The Panthers defeated the Hokies last week, and victories over West Virginia, Temple and Miami would give Pitt the title.

West Virginia update: Once 1-4, the Mountaineers lost by two points to Miami and handed Virginia Tech its first loss. Now they're tied for second in the Big East with Miami at 3-1.

Story line: They call it the Backyard Brawl, but this time there are Big East title implications involving two teams that won't be jumping to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The pick: Pittsburgh. Larry Fitzgerald collects more admirers.

-- Robyn Norwood

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